Dr. Nicole Julia has a unique story and her mission inspires us. She is chosen for the OT Entrepreneur Spotlight this month and aligns with our OT Objective Box theme “Goals” perfectly. Within the last year The Able Fables has donated over $5,000 to inclusive playgrounds and started a book donation program for Gary’s Gigantic Dream (the 1st book in their series). When donating a book you choose to have it delivered to a local classroom, children’s hospital or child receiving their first wheelchair.
Continue reading below to learn about Nicole’s entrepreneurial journey becoming an author and how she is going to change the world.
P.s. Don’t forget to use your exclusive discount code in your OT Objective Subscription Box!
What led you to pursue Occupational Therapy as a career?
In 8th grade, our junior high school had a whole unit on careers. At the end, our school hosted a “career day” where they brought in people from all kinds of professions to share about their careers. We were allowed to choose and attend presentations on 3 different careers. Our parents had to sign off on our choices. My mom said I had to choose at least one job that I hadn’t heard of before, so I chose occupational therapist as one of my choices! After attending the presentation about Occupational Therapy, I fell in love with the profession and all of the choices the profession had for practice areas. I was 13, and my mind was set on Occupational Therapy!
What is your favorite thing about being an Occupational Therapist?
My favorite part about being an occupational therapist would have to be the continuous education, growth and development you experience both professionally and personally. As you are empowering others to “live their lives to the fullest” you learn to do the same for yourself as well. As occupational therapists, we have been invited into the most vulnerable parts of our fellow humans’ lives, and we have the honor of problem solving through the tough stuff, together. It’s pretty special.
What settings and populations do you have experience working with?
I spent the 4 months of my doctorate program working in accessibility and universal design. When I graduated, I spent the first 6 months working in an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Then, I transitioned and spent 2 years working as a mental health OT at an inpatient behavioral health hospital where I worked with child/adolescent, and adults aged 18-100+.
Can you tell us about The Able Fables®?
The Able Fables is an inclusive movement and children’s picture books series that proudly represents diverse characters, empowering children to embrace inclusion and celebrate ability. Each book is strength-based and highlights a character with a disability or diagnosis living out their able story. As an OT it is important to me that kiddos, and the adults reading to them, understand that we can all grow and work and play, that we are all valuable members of society. That we can all participate in life’s occupations. 20% of profits from my books are donated to help build inclusive playgrounds across the United States!
Gary’s Gigantic Dream, the first book of The Able Fables® series, is an upbeat, rhythmic tale of a young giraffe who gets evaluated for his very first wheelchair. Upon receiving his chair, Gary discovers newfound independence, zest for life, and a gigantic dream of his own – to become a storyteller of ability.
Lia’s Kind Mind, the second book of The Able Fables®, is a heartwarming story of a young lion who adores gymnastics. When Lia struggles to master a new skill on the balance beam, she doubts her abilities and ponders quitting the sport altogether. Encouraged by her teammates, Lia harnesses the power of a kind mind and learns to embrace the balance beam as she does her Port Wine Stain birthmark.
I have written a total of 7 books, and plan to publish at least 10 books in this series! I cannot wait for you to read them!
What sparked your idea for The Able Fables®?
The first seed for The Able Fables® was planted in OT school, when our class first learned about wheelchair seating and positioning. I was quite fascinated with how detailed and individualized the wheelchair fitting process was. Before OT school, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about this process. I joked with my teacher about writing a children’s book about a wheelchair evaluation, but I never really planned to do it.
Fast forward to my last semester of OT school, when I was supposed to be studying for boards. This was the same semester that I was working in community accessibility and universal design (I was fascinated with inclusive playgrounds). One day, I couldn;t study because I had a poem stuck in my head – which had never happened before. I wrote the poem down in about 30 minutes and I thought to myself “hmm, this kinda sounds like a children’s book”. I remembered joking with my professor a year earlier about writing a book about a wheelchair evaluation, so the next day I decided to try to write another poem/book about that. Welp, in 30 minutes, I did it again. I read them to a few of my friends who were also OT classmates, and they encouraged me to turn them into a series. By the end of that week in 2017, I had written 3 books!
How long have you been in business?
My business is technically 2 years old, because I registered early. But, my first book, Gary’s Gigantic Dream, entered the world just 1 year ago, at the end of November, 2019!
What is one long term goal you have for your business?
Hehe, can I say three of them!? Build an Able Fables themed inclusive playground (or 10), start offering ADA/Universal design consulting services, and publish at least 10 books in The Able Fables series!
What is the most challenging thing about running your own business?
The most challenging part of running my business is wearing all the hats. I’m just one person, with lots of job titles. I write, I design, I speak, I pack and ship orders, I advertise, market, answer emails. I am customer service, accountant, and so much more. But, honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am loving living out my dream and passion!
What is the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
The most rewarding part is hearing stories about how my books have positively impacted, or changed the hearts and minds of those inside and outside of the disability community. I have gotten some of the most beautiful, heartfelt feedback. A second blessing of running my own business, is having the ability to follow my creative heart 100% of the time!
What does a typical week look like for you?
My typical week has changed a lot due to covid. Currently, my typical week looks like working on the launch of my newest book, Lia’s Kind Mind. Managing social media, shipping books, and participating in virtual readings and events! I am also working to get my third book published and out into the world, a process that typically takes about 7 months (for me) to complete!
Pre-covid, I was diving into school visits, and community readings teaching young kiddos and their families the power of inclusion and diverse friendships. I was meeting with non-profits that were fundraising to build inclusive playgrounds. And, planning on attending conferences as both a vendor and a speaker!
What advice do you have for Occupational Therapy Students or New Grads?
Take chances, and enjoy every opportunity you have to dive into community based, and non-traditional OT practice. Even if it doesn’t become your main focus, or career, it will expand your knowledge and strengthen your passion for this beautiful, expansive profession!